Colbert suggests the managers take charge, directing employees on the proper methods and enforcing the rules with regular reminders. In some restaurants, managers set an alarm that goes off every time employees needed to wash their hands.
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The National Restaurant Association (NRA) also plays a role in ensuring restaurant compliance. In response to CDC’s report, the organization issued a statement defending the hygiene of its associates. “For the restaurant and food service industry, there is no greater priority than food safety and our customers’ and employees’ well-being,” says Scott DeFife, executive vice president for policy and government affairs at the NRA, in the press release.
To assist food managers with compliance, the NRA provides training on handwashing techniques through its ServSafe program, which has taught more than 5.6 million food service workers. In an email statement, Christin Fernandez, media relations manager for the NRA, says the program addresses the importance of handwashing, the proper technique, and the use of hand antiseptics.
One feature of the program is asking workers to wash their hands for what they think is 20 seconds, emphasizing the importance of washing for the full recommended duration. Glo Germ, a substance that simulates pathogens on hands under black light, is used to show the difference between washed and unwashed hands. Participants can use different handwashing techniques and see their effectiveness, points out Fernandez.
Whatever method is used for compliance, handwashing has the potential to reduce the prevalence of norovirus and a spectrum of other foodborne illnesses. Taking a little extra time in the restroom to wash hands fully could save food service establishments and their customers from sickness and regret.
Petenko is an editorial intern at Wiley.
For every menial task in an employee’s schedule, a high-tech alternative exists to replace it. Meritech Corp. manufactures an automated handwashing system–employees simply stick their hands through two holes and the system goes through a 12-second cycle of pre-rinse, soap, and rinse, eliminating harmful pathogens. “We conducted a study in our system [with] norovirus, we were actually the most effective in that we got a four-log reduction,” says Michele Colbert, Meritech’s vice president of sales and marketing.
Meritech sells some of its systems to restaurants, but its main target is distributors. Some of the largest fast-food chains require their food processing facilities to use the system, even if they don’t use it in the restaurant itself because of difficulties with local regulations.
Besides washing technology, other corporations focus on improving the effectiveness of drying methods. According to Dan Storto, president of World Dryer, his company’s hands-free technology keeps restrooms sanitary.
“Washer facilities, toilets, have all become that for the simple reason that the less things you touch, the less chance you have of getting any contamination,” he says.
The company’s dryers use SteriTouch, an antimicrobial silver coating that prevents contamination from mold or bacteria. Another popular component is a HEPA filter, which they plan to incorporate in more products “down the road,” Storto says.